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It’s amazing to me that there’s never been a meeting convened of all the ethnic media in the Pacific Northwest. We tried to get some editors and news directors to attend a recent conference at the University of Washington.
The conference –Â Journalism That Matters: Re-Imagining News & Community in the Pacific Northwest — brought together more than 200 people who have more than a passing interest in journalism. Many were former newspaper writers. Many also were community activists, artists, and educators. There were hardly any business development or marketing people present, and we really needed their voices in the conversation.
Yours truly represented AAJA Seattle, and I was encouraged to see some people of color there. AAJA National Board representative Athima Chansanchai was there for most of the conference, as was Naomi Ishisaka, communications director for OneAmerica. So was Yuko Kodama, a producer for Reclaim the Media. There were visits from Assunta Ng, publisher of the Northwest Asian Weekly, and Diem Ly, editor-in-chief of The International Examiner.
I organized a breakout session on Saturday morning by asking this question: What does the news ecology look like for AAPI communities in the Pacific Northwest and what new possibilities can we create?
More than a dozen people joined the discussion. I am listing them all (in no particular order) because I am so grateful they took the time to participate (apologies to any latecomers I left out):
- Kenneth Gillgren of Gillgren Communication Services
- Caroline Li, AAJA Seattle VP of Events
- Derek Wing, communications director for the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging
- Sam Louie, a counselor at Asian Counseling and Referral Service
- Rosalinda Mendoza, WA State Farmworker Housing Trust
- Nicole Ciridon, Features Editor, The Daily (UW)
- Tima Chansanchai, AAJA National Board representative
- John Spady, CommunityForums.org
- Jonathan Lawson, Reclaim the Media
- Joaquin Uy, News and Public Affairs Director, KBCS 91.3 FM
- Carina del Rosario, freelance writer/photojournalist
- Naomi Ishisaka, communications director for OneAmerica
We concluded with several important directions in which to go:
– AAJA Seattle should convene a meeting of all ethnic media executives in the Pacific Northwest to discuss our needs and explore gaps in serving our communities. The mapping exercise may lead us to new possibilities.
– Young minority students could be trained as part of Story Corps to carry out storytelling from their communities, and given opportunities to publish online. These youth could conduct valuable oral history projects by examining their own family and culture.
– If time and resources were available, it would be useful to bring together community-based organizations, ethnic media and mainstream media for a wider ranging discussion about how do we improve media access. We agreed that a first step is to piggyback on an existing survey process to learn more about AAPI media access and usage in our market.
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Chapter Presidentâ€™s Report
This has been a year of great accomplishments for our Seattle chapter in the face of the worst recession in our lifetime. Itâ€™s because of you that we continue to take a stand for diversity in journalism, nurture students and support media entrepreneurship.
As we all know, 2009 was the year of convulsions for our industry as advertisers retrenched and everyone was affected either directly or indirectly by newsroom layoffs. Hearst Corp.â€™s Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the cityâ€™s oldest newspaper, published its last print edition on March 17 and laid off most of its staffers. Despite layoffs in 2008, The Seattle Times itself was on the brink of bankruptcy, and the staff agreed to painful concessions. Local television stations imposed wage freezes and eliminated jobs as well. Freelancers had a tougher time getting paid their usual rates and finding outlets for their work.
Yes, there were challenges and setbacks, but they didnâ€™t extinguish our spirit.
Here are some of the highlights of 2009:
- In February, AAJA Seattle held one of its most successful Lunar New Year fundraisers ever. Karen Johnson, managing editor of Seattlemag.com, coordinated a team of volunteers who pulled off the classy event, which was emceed by Q13â€™s Lara Yamada. Our National Board representatives generously covered our biggest costs: Athima Chansanchai donated the cost of renting the Wing Luke Museum’s gorgeous space, while Chris Nishiwaki donated the cost of wine.
- Our “Choppy Waters” conference in January at the University of Washingtonâ€™s Haggett Hall and “Reboot Your Career” workshop in March at Microsoft were a hit with attendees. A big shout-out to the UWâ€™s Department of Communications for making Choppy Waters possible and to freelance writer James Tabafunda for working with me on organizing the entrepreneurship-focused program. Doug Kim, managing editor for Microsoft Office Online, took the initiative to offer a resume workshop for members hunting for jobs.
- For the first time, AAJA Seattle partnered with the Seattle Association of Black Journalists (SABJ) to develop a video to inspire the next generation of journalists of color. Amy Phan, an editor for NorthWest Cable News, and Jessica Boyd, a former Northwest Journalists of Color recipient, produced the video. Lisa Youngblood-Hall, SABJâ€™s president, supervised the young producers.
- We screened the video in June at the Northwest Journalists of Color scholarship reception at KING TV. The NJC scholarship program, run this year by Caroline Li, who publishes earthwalkersmag.com, awarded grants to Peter Sessum, Martha Flores Perez, Kassiopia Rodgers and Ilona Idlis.
- At the AAJA National Convention in Boston, our Seattle chapter had a stellar turnout with 16 attendees, including Whitworth University student Yong Kyle Kim, this yearâ€™s recipient of the Founders scholarship. President Sharon Chan delivered an inspiring speech, and Marian Liu led the Voices Student Project with aplomb.
- In another first, the Seattle chapter went to Vancouver, B.C., in September to support journalists of color there and establish ties with major media. Jennifer Chen, associate producer for CBCâ€™s Early Edition, and Alden Habacon, manager of diversity initiatives for CBC Television, worked hard to put together a packed two-day itinerary that included newsroom tours, a panel discussion at the University of British Columbiaâ€™s Graduate Journalism School and a Lunar New Year-style dinner that brought out 60 local journalists.
- And in November, AAJA launched the Asian American Small Market Broadcast Journalists group. Chapter member Shawn Chitnis, a reporter for KNDO TV in Yakima, is co-coordinator of the group.
These and other members of our Seattle chapter are the reason why AAJA Seattle is one of the best chapters in the country. Our members are also lucky to have an extremely dedicated board, and I want to thank this year’s officers for their service. If you’re interested in serving on our board in the future, please drop me a note.
We have reorganized and expanded our board, dropping the co-presidency and establishing two new positions â€“ vice president for events and vice president for member programs. Many thanks to Venice Buhain, board secretary, for managing the restructure and chapter elections. Here are the chapterâ€™s officers in 2010:
- President: Sanjay Bhatt, reporter, The Seattle Times
- Vice president for member programs: vacant
- Vice president for events: Caroline Li, founder, Earthwalkers Magazine
- Treasurer: Nicole Tsong, reporter, The Seattle Times
- Secretary: Venice Buhain, reporter, The Olympian
- National Advisory Board representative: Athima Chansanchai, founder/president, Tima Media
The board held a retreat recently at the home of Lori Matsukawa and Larry Blackstock and developed a roadmap for the chapter in 2010 and beyond.
As we look ahead, we will inspire the next generation of journalists, promote diversity and support media entrepreneurship. We will focus our resources on outreach, training and mentoring. We will strengthen the relationships weâ€™ve built and develop new ones.
Next year we plan to launch a training series, hold social events with other professional groups, and sponsor pizza nights with journalism students at colleges and universities. We plan to send one, maybe even two, students to the AAJA National Convention, Aug. 4-7, in Los Angeles (and hope to see you there).
Have an idea for a chapter event? Come to a chapter business meeting! We plan to hold them every other month on the second Saturday. Subscribe to updates at www.aajaseattle.org.
There are many ways you can support AAJA: Become a member. Attend an event. Volunteer your time or expertise. Make a tax-deductible donation. This is your community.
Thank you and happy holidays!
President, AAJA Seattle
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Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver.
On Sept. 18 and 19, about a dozen AAJA members visited Vancouver, BC, and met with local Asian-Canadian journalists. The purpose of the trip was three-fold: To establish ties with fellow journalists concerned with diversity in the media, gain a better understanding of diversity issues in Vancouver and support local journalists interested in forming a professional association with goals similar to AAJA.
Sanjay Bhatt, president of the AAJA Seattle chapter, proposed an AAJA trip to Vancouver after an email exchange with CBC Early Edition associate producer Jennifer Chen, who missed being a part of AAJA when she lived in New York. Over a few conference calls, they hashed out an itinerary for visits to the CBC, Vancouver Sun and University of British Columbia’s Graduate Journalism School. Chen also brought in Alden Habacon, manager of diversity initiatives for CBC Television, and he arranged for a Lunar New Year-style dinner at a Vancouver restaurant and a walking tour of Chinatown. These two were instrumental in making our stay pleasant and worry-free, and we deeply appreciated the hospitality from everyone.
AAJA was well represented on the trip: National President Sharon Chan and National Treasurer Candace Heckman participated, as did Athima Chansanchai, who serves on the national advisory board. The other Seattle chapter members on the trip were AAJA Seattle president Sanjay Bhatt, chapter secretary Venice Buhain, Lori Matsukawa, Larry Blackstock, and Yvonne Leow. AAJA Portland chapter secretary Peter Wong also attended.
That newsrooms in Vancouver would have difficulty achieving parity with their city’s population seems hard to fathom: The City of Vancouver has a population of more than 570,000 residents, of which nearly half are Asian. Chinese Canadians comprise a whopping 30 percent of the city’s residents. Another 6 percent are South Asian and 5 percent are Filipino. The City of Seattle has a population similar in size to that of Vancouver, but only 13 percent of Seattle residents are Asian.
To see more photos of our trip, go to our Flickr group site.
Meeting the Executives
Our first meeting was on Friday morning at Fairchild Media Group in Richmond, a suburb with a population of about 173,500, of which about two-thirds are of Asian descent. Little did we know that one out of five Vancouver residents is Chinese, or that Fairchild TV is the largest Chinese-language broadcast news operation in Canada.
We met with Fairchild Media’s President, Joseph Chan, and the television network’s news director, Winnie Hwo. At least 30 percent of their network’s programming is Canadian content. The network’s business model – subscription only – is healthy: The media company plans to launch two new channels next year. Other Canadian broadcast operations simply translate English-language news into Chinese, whereas Fairchild employs Chinese-fluent producers and anchors who cover the news through their lens. As Winnie put it, Fairchild TV brings a “Chinese flavor” to news coverage that the audience can’t get from CBC and other news suppliers.
Group photo at Fairchild Media Group
Later that morning, we toured the CBC Vancouver headquarters. In fact, we were the first group to tour the newsroom since it opened over the summer after a major renovation. We had a chance to pop into a live broadcast on Radio 3, a Canadian music radio channel for emerging artists, and producer Lauren Burrows let us give a shout-out to her listeners.
We had lunch with Wayne Williams, news director for CBC in British Columbia, and Lorna Haeber, head of current affairs programming for CBC in British Columbia. They said that improving diversity at CBC was a “top-down initiative” that involved educating staff about their audience’s demographics, bringing in stakeholder groups to share stories missing from coverage, and hiring more reporters from ethnic communities.
The pool of minority journalistic talent is small, Haeber said, partly because some cultures don’t encourage their young to enter the profession. Recent layoffs haven’t helped: CBC lost some diverse journalists because all the newest hires were people of color. Haeber told us that each department sets diversity goals annually, and Habacon said he is developing new tools for measuring diversity in news coverage at CBC.
Inside a Radio 3 studio: AAJA members Lori Matsukawa and Athima Chansanchai react to the live radio host giving a shout-out on the air to our AAJA tour group.
On Friday afternoon we toured The Vancouver Sun, which employs about 130 staff, the largest newsroom in Western Canada. Managing Editor Kirk LaPointe told us the paper has about 500,000 daily readers and competes with The Province, which is owned by the same company in an arrangement similar to joint operating agreements in the United States. But unlike their U.S. counterparts, Canadian newspapers biggest edition is published on Saturday, and their ad rates are based on readership, not circulation.
About 18 months ago, The Sun’s newsroom was reorganized around a central hub, a design that is also used by the Associated Press and some European newsrooms. The editors’ desks are in the newsroom center, and reporters sit on the fringes. Online, the Sun has about 60 blogs by community experts, about 25 Twitter feeds and 15 million page views a month. LaPointe said his organization struggles to create diversity in the newsroom because of low staff turnover (less than 1%). Still, we noticed at least three editors of Asian descent sitting around the hub at the 2:15 p.m. editorial meeting, including the photo editor and editorial page editor.
Group photo at The Vancouver Sun
We participated in a “New Frontiers” panel at the University of British Columbia’s graduate school of journalism and were welcomed by its director, Mary Lynn Young. Our moderator was the CBC’s Habacon, who is also the founder of Schema Magazine, an online magazine whose mission is “to reflect the most culturally mobile and complexly diverse generation of Canadians ever observed.”
Sharon Chan was the first panelist to speak, and she talked about the shifting landscape in U.S. journalism, challenges to diversity and how AAJA is helping members adapt. The other panelists were assistant professor Alfred Hermida, a co-founder of the award-winning BBCNews.com; Hwo, news director of Fairchild TV; Miyoung Lee, reporter/editor for CBC Television; and Craig Takeuchi, movies editor at The Georgia Straight, Vancouver’s alternative weekly.
CBC reporter Miyoung Lee and Fairchild TV News Director Winnie Hwo at the diversity panel at the University of British Columbia’s Graduate Journalism School.
Dinner with Asian-Canadian journalists
We had a 10-course dinner at Spicy Court on Friday night, an experience that Habacon jokingly referred to as our “wedding dinner.” The gathering of 50 Asian-Canadian journalists was historic, Habacon told us, in that never before had there been a reason for such a dinner. In Vancouver’s media market, the journalists are fragmented into smaller linguistic-based groups, such as one for Punjabis and another for Chinese. AAJA’s visit thus was a catalyst in bringing these journalists together.
Alden Habacon, manager of diversity initiatives for CBC Television, and AAJA President Sharon Chan at Spicy Court dinner that brought together 50 Asian-Canadian journalists.
The group included Nick Noorani, founder and publisher of the monthly Canadian Immigrant; Peg Fong, Western Canada bureau chief for The Toronto Star; Meera Bains, a Punjabi-speaking reporter/editor for CBC News Vancouver; Carolyn Ali, travel and food editor for The Georgia Straight; and Bowen Zhang, the Mandarin-speaking news anchor for Omni Television. Our delegation was split up so that there were at least two AAJA members at each table.
Chan and Bhatt presented gifts to Habacon and Chen at the end of the dinner. We presented them with chocolates made in Seattle and a pair of Seattle Times coffee mugs. Later, we reconvened at one of Vancouver’s great lounges for after-dinner drinks.
CBC reporter Tiffany Chong and Seattle Times multimedia intern Yvonne Leow hang out after dinner at the Regional Tasting Lounge in Yaletown.
Tour of Chinatown
Early Saturday morning we met at the New Town Bakery, where we enjoyed delicious baked and steamed buns. We set off on a 3.5-mile walking tour of Chinatown led by Andrew Yan of BTA Works, the R&D division of Bing Thom Architects. Like Seattle’s International District, this Chinatown has been home to many Asian communities: Japanese, Chinese, Sikhs, Filipinos and Koreans. The architecture of Chinatown reflects that diversity, such as the old Maikawa department store, Chinese-influenced recessed balconies, and dilapidated brick and wooden rooming houses built a century ago for laborers.
We were all struck by how Asian-Americans and Asian-Canadians have a shared history of being exploited and excluded by the majority society, such as the internment of Japanese during World War II, the barring of Chinese immigrants, and violence against Sikhs and other Asians who were perceived as stealing jobs from the white majority. The tour ended at the spectacular Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.
Group photo in Vancouver’s Chinatown.
Supporting Asian-Canadian journalists
Our visit culminated with a business meeting to discuss the needs of Asian-Canadian journalists in Vancouver and how AAJA can support their efforts. We heard from our hosts that there isn’t a strong sense of community among journalists, nor are there mentoring or professional-development workshops for journalists of color. Our hosts told us that an organization like AAJA, with its national reach and reputation among major media companies, could help Asian-Canadian journalists in their efforts to increase diversity in their newsrooms and coverage.
We encouraged them to become AAJA members, attend our national convention in Los Angeles and explained the process for becoming an AAJA chapter. The meeting ended with hugs, and we look forward to seeing our Asian-Canadian peers in Los Angeles in 2010 and in Detroit in 2011!
CBC Early Edition Associate Producer Jennifer Chen and Seattle Times reporter Sanjay Bhatt at our group’s wrap-up lunch.
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Thanks to Larry Blackstock for contributing some awesome photos from our trip this weekend to Vancouver!
Meet the Executives: Wayne Williams, news director; Lorna Haeber, head of current affairs programming; Sanjay Bhatt, AAJA Seattle chapter president; and Sharon Chan, AAJA National president.
Williams and Haeber met with our delegation of a dozen AAJA members over lunch at CBC Vancouver headquarters. They spoke about their efforts to increase the diversity of staff and news coverage to reflect the cosmopolitan city (almost half its population is of Asian descent), as well as the challenges they see in reaching parity. Chan and other AAJA members shared with them the kinds of events and programs we organize in the United States to support diversity in newsrooms, encourage youth to enter the profession and retain talented mid-career professionals.
From Seattle With Love: Sanjay Bhatt, AAJA Seattle chapter president; Sharon Chan, AAJA National president; Alden Habacon, CBC Television manager of diversity initiatives; Jennifer Chen, associate producer of CBC Vancouver’s Early Edition
At the end of Friday’s dinner, Habacon and Chen thanked the 50 Asian-Canadian journalists in attendance. Bhatt and Chan thanked the pair for their work organizing a two-day, packed itinerary for our AAJA delegation, including the 10-course dinner at Spicy Court, and presented them with chocolates made in Seattle favored by the Obamas and two Seattle Times coffee mugs.
AAJA delegation and our new Vancouver friends: TOP ROW: Peter Wong, Candace Heckman, Venice Buhain, Athima Chansanchai, Alden Habacon. BOTTOM ROW: Sharon Chan, Sanjay Bhatt, Jennifer Chen and Lori Matsukawa.
Photo taken at Spicy Court before we headed off to a lounge for after-dinner drinks.
Exploring Past and Present in Chinatown: Jennifer Chen, Alden Habacon, Andy Yan, Yvonne Leow, Sharon Chan, Peter Wong, Sanjay Bhatt and Lori Matsukawa
We learned about striking parallels between Asian-Canadian and Asian-American history on a fabulous tour by Andy Yan, an urban planner and policy expert at BTA Works.
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AAJA Seattle has partnered with fellow journalists at the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Vancouver Sun, and University of British Columbia journalism school to bring you a historic meetup on Sept. 18 and 19 in the city that will host the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The purpose of the meeting is to bring together AAJA members from Portland and Seattle and peers in Vancouver who are interested in diversity in journalism.
While we’re there, we plan to tour newsrooms, meet members of the mainstream and ethnic media and participate in a workshop hosted by UBC’s journalism school. A meetup of journalists wouldn’t be complete without a few drinks at a bar after work, so be sure to check back for details on evening excursions.
HOTELS: Once we have an idea of how many people are committed to attending, we can see if a group discount is in order and help coordinate carpools.
PLEASE RSVP no later than Monday, August 24, if you’re seriously interested in attending. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Vancouver” in the subject line. Thank you.
And if you don’t mind, join our AAJA Seattle Facebook group and RSVP on our “AAJA Goes to Vancouver” event page. You’ll receive automatic updates on the event as we finalize the details.
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